Thursday, 19 April 2012

Sparkling rose petal drink - Something different!

Since the ginger beer that I made a few weeks ago was a great hit, I thought I'd have a go at the 'Sparkling Rose Petal' drink that Sally Wise has included in her book - A year in a bottle. The family did the 'Why on earth would you want to drink rose petals?' thing on me but as I pointed out to them, they don't have to drink it - just humour me while I have a go at making it... Here's what happened!

The biggest problem I had was where to get rose petals. I had thought of neighbours and relatives that grow them but collecting them all at once in lrge enough quanities was proving to be a stumbling block... So when I came across a stall at the markets that sold big bags of rose petals for $3, I had to give it a go!!

So first I gave all the petals a quick soak and a shake to make sure that I had washed off any bugs and/or chemicals that they may have been sprayed with (even though the lady assured me they didn't spray...) The recipe called for 300gms of red or white rose  - petals and I used 150gms of mixed petals as beggars cant be choosers!

The recipe here has been followed as for 300gms - as I didn't think to halve everything when I realised I only had half the amount of petals. So if you are going to have a go at this recipie, either double the rose petals to 300gms or halve the rest of the ingrediants....

In a pot I dissolved 3 cups of raw sugar with 4 cups of boiling water.

Then I added 14 cups of cold water, 2 roughly chopped whole lemons, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (the recipe said white but I didn't have any and it has made it such a pretty colour as well!) and lastly the washed rose petals.

Then I mixed the lot together and left it to sit on the bench for 3 days covered with a tea towel.

I poked it every couple of days to sink the petals and mix it up a bit. It started 'fizzing' on day three and I decided that it was probably time to bottle it and popped it into a couple of drunken ginger beer bottles and one glass one. I'll have to keep an eye on that one and make sure the pressure doesn't build up too much.

You are meant to wait up to 10 days for it to go fizzy but mine is more or less there already. I'm going to leave it for another day and then refrigerate it and start to drink it - my taste tests were really nice. Its got a bit of a lemon tang (probably cause it has double the amount of lemon and vinegar) - with a really nice rose after taste and rose bubbles in it.

If you have access to a a bunch of rose petals - this is a 'something different' fermented drink to try! Let me know how yours turns out if you make it!!!

Here is a link to another version of a rose petal drink and one for making rose wine which could be a bit of fun as well! 

Score card:
Green-ness: Making your own food is the best green thing to do!
Frugal-ness: If you have access to free rose petals - very frugal indeed!
Time cost: Quicker than ginger beer! 20 mins to make, 3 days on the bench and 10 minutes to bottle.
Skill level: Super easy - good one for the kids.
Fun -ness: Great fun to make something so different!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Revamping/fixing a Rice Paper Lantern lampshade

We sit out side a lot, well between floods and blazing sunshine that is, and over the years our pergola has become just like another room.  We have even put in a sink and shelving and have a set of crockery, a jug, tea and coffee and all that sort of stuff so we don't have to go back upstairs if we want a cuppa... Basically we are lazy!

We have a table there as well with a light hanging quite low over it that I put one of those really cheap paper ball like light shades over quite some time ago. I was looking at it last night thinking I really should replace that -its getting a bit grotty. The spiders like getting into it as all the bugs go for it at night. The wire is a little rusty, leaving little orange marks on the white paper - and theres a few holes from when I glued bats to it for Halloween...

I decided that instead of replacing it - I would tizzy it up a bit until the universe presents me with a cheap (or even better - free) replacement... 

Here's what I did...

First I got it down from over the table and gave it a bit of a brush down with a hand hand held soft brush.

Then I got out my paints and started painting some big purple flowers all over it with watered down acrylic paints,

Then I filled some of the holes with small flowers (the runs are part of the charm of the hand made product!!!)

added orange (to match the rust) for the flower centres,

And filled in the background with green,

And Voila - One tizzied up much better looking lampshade! It looks quite nice at night with the yellowy light inside it!

One of the problems that I came across was that you can't paint large areas of these lampshades at one time with too much paint or watery paint. They just disintegrate.You need to paint with as little paint as possible - sort of a dry brushing technique. I like the water colour effect and think if I do this again, I will paint smaller areas at a time as when large areas got too wet, the shade simply ripped as you can see in the photo. It was a very old shade in the first place that had had a hard like, but they are very thin paper and are under pressure from the coil design and from the wire that holds it all together.

Could be quite a good activty for older kids to have a go at - or even a personalised frugal present from you to a child! (but use a new one maybe..?)

I found this website with some lovely painted shades on it that you could use for inspiration or have a look at this one for even more ideas!

Score card:
Green-ness: Fixing rather than than throwing it out - very greeny!
Frugal-ness: Didn't cost a thing so free is definatly frugal!
Time cost: About 1/2 an hour
Skill level: As easy or as complicated as you want to make it!
Fun -ness: Heaps!!!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Making your own home made Ginger Beer! Mmmm!

Many Many moons ago, a Landlord left  a laundry shelf of home made ginger beer for us to drink when we moved into the house. It only took a few nights of glass bottle ginger beer explosions to work out why he decided to leave them for us rather than attempt to transport them to his new house! We enjoyed drinking them much more than we enjoyed cleaning up the glass bottle fragments I can tell you! Fast forward quite a few more years and a neighbour gives us a Ginger Beer Bug so we could make our own home made ginger beer - and we did! And it was great fun! And we used plastic 1.25 litre bottles and never cleaned up a single shard of glass - although we did have to mop down a few walls and even the ceiling on odd occasions - Don't shake your ginger beer before opening it, unless you like gingery sugary walls! 

Making ginger beer at home is not hard at all and a nice change from cordials (or soft drink if that's your thing!) and can be the basis for a few mock-tails and even a cocktail or two to boot!

Here's what I did... 

Ginger beer has two steps to making it. The first is to make a "bug" that forms the basis of the drink and the second part involves straining the bug to use to make the actual drink.

To make the bug, I used Sally Wise's recipe in her book - A Year in a Bottle (lots of other goodies in there too) And you simply mix a teaspoon of powdered ginger, a teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast to a cup of warm water in a jar. Give it a bit of a stir and then pop a piece of muslin or a hanky (I ended up using a tissue) over the top, secured with a rubber band. Leave it on the kitchen bench somewhere  where you will see it everyday.

Then give it a feed every day - it will need a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of powdered ginger and a quick stir for 7 days. You should see the yeast doing its thing and bubbling and fizzing away. You should get some bubbles on the top of the liquid too!

On Day 8 - you get to make the beer itself!

Mix 4 cups of sugar ( I used raw sugar) with 4 cups of water in a pot and heat until  the water boils and the sugar dissolves. Take it off the heat and add 18 more cups of cold water. Use a big pot (at least 5 litres) so you have less cleaning up to do. Then add about 1/2 a cup of lemon juice.

You need to add the "juice" from the bug now. So get a bigger container, secure a piece of muslin or material that will act like a filter/sieve with a rubber band and spoon/tip the bug into it and leave it to drip for a while until the liquid is in the container and the sediment is trapped in the sieve material (or poke it and prod it like I did to hurry things along a bit!)

When you have got all the bug juice out and all the sediment is in the muslin/teatowel filter - somehow, manage to remove the tea towel (without spilling either the liquid or the sediment) and tip the bug juice into the sugar-water-lemon mix.

Give it a stir and then bottle the ginger beer into your plastic bottles. I highly recommend using recycled plastic1.25 litre soft drink bottles after cleaning up all that glass many years ago! Rinse out the bottles in as hot water as your hands can stand and fill up using a funnel and ladle with your about-to-be ginger beer.

I'd leave about a centimeter of head space (gap between the surface of the liquid and the lid)  in the bottle as its probably going to expand. Leave your Ginger Beer in a cool place (NOT a warm place) to 'mature' for the next 3-5 days.

Your Ginger Beer is going to be ready when you can feel the pressure when you squeeze the bottle gently and possibly see a bit of fizz happening. Carefully and slowly open the lid and test/taste some after a few days and see what you think. When its the right fizz for you - pop it in the fridge to slow the yeast production and stop the bottles from expanding and possibly exploding on you! (if they are still expanding - just unscrew the lid a little, let the pressure out, tighten up the lid and keep in the fridge - or just drink it over ice and be done!)

Drink and enjoy!

To continue making Ginger Beer - Split the sediment into two jars. Add a cup of warm water, a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of powdered ginger and simply start all over again. Each time you make a batch of ginger beer you will have to spit the bug. Set it up in a jar and give it to a neighbour, friend, your daycare, mothers group or relative with instructions on how to make their own Ginger Beer at home! Pass on the tradition!

 Score card: 
Green-ness: Home made soft drink from local product - muchly green!
Frugal-ness: Works out about $1 a litre (if you buy all the ingredients) less if you have your own lemons and find a packet of ginger powder in the pantry!
Time cost: 2 minutes to make the bug. A week to feed it and about 1/2 an hour to dissolve the sugar, squeeze the lemons, add the bug to the mixture and bottle. Another few days to wait for it to mature. 10 minutes to down the first litre with a couple of friends who pop in unexpectedly!
Skill level: If you can boil and egg you can do this too! 
Fun -ness: Feels a bit like a mad scientist experiment!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Hanging tomato plants: Revamping some hanging baskets!

I have a whole bunch of hanging baskets that over the years have managed to end up with those spider plants in them - as not much else can survive endless days of sun followed by floods - gotta love that Queensland weather!

After re potting my hanging baskets on the front of the house from spider plants to flowers a week ago, I looked to the ones on the back of the house. I could have gone more green  or flowers - both would have been nice, but in the end I opted to have a go at transplanting some 'wild self sown rouge' tomato plants into the baskets and having go number 3469,788 at growing something to eat!

When I pulled the mostly dead spider plants out of the basket - I decided the baskets probably needed a bit of a re-vamp them selves... 

Here's what I did...

 First, I simply ripped all the grassy coverings of them to leave the bare wire skeleton.

Like this!

Then I used the base of a dead palm frond cut into 1.5 inch strips to wind in and out  of the wire skeleton. (like basket weaving therapy!!)

It gets a bit tricky as you get to the bottom. I used thinner strips and chose the softer more pliable parts as I got closer to the bottom.

Here are my three finished baskets. I used different sides of the fronds to get the different colours!

Then I lined them with plastic and filled them with potting mix and a bit of compost.

I found some self sown rouge cherry tomato plants under the lemon tree and transplanted them into the newly potted baskets.

And then hung them back up!

Now all I have do is wait is for the tomatoes to grow!!

Update: 24/07/2012
Two tomato plants are growing well. One even has flowers on it - so I might actually get a tomato on it! The third one  at the back got eaten by a possum that got up on the beehive (so we got a fake owl to scare them off) and I ended up planting a fern in there as the scond tomato plant I put in didnt make it.

Score card:
Green-ness: Its very green to grow your own food! (If I can!)
Frugal-ness: I didn't spend a cent! I'm the frugal Queen today!
Time cost: It took me about an hour to weave all the baskets and about 10 minutes to do the rest!
Skill level: Nice and easy - maybe a holiday project for the kids!
Fun -ness: Great fun and a great bit of entertainment for the afternoon!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Cleaning your toilet - the green way!

I have been slowly moving my way to greener cleaners around the house and last week the loo came under scrutiny. I have no trouble keeping the outside clean nor the seat and cistern. The inside of the bowl is no real problem but there is this horrible buildup of, well who wants to contemplate that really, right at the bottom - almost out of sight on the bendy bit. (in the spirit of sparing your delicate senses - I have not included photos in this post!)

I have had numerous scrubs at it, used a number of proprietary cleaners on it but nothing seems to shift it.

I was looking through a book called Express House Cleaning and it reckoned that denture tablets were the way to go. Not having any of them in the house I moved onto the next suggestion and Voila - it worked!

Here's what I did...

Its almost too easy for words... I dumped a big handful of Bi-carb into the bottom of the loo after everyone had left the house for the day, gave it a bit of a scrub, added a big slash of white vinegar and went to work.

When I got home I gave it another scrub and a flush - and it was more or less gone! A couple of treatments and I have a shiny white loo - inside and out!

No fumes, no bleach and no fuss!

I think the trick is the amount of time you can leave it. The longer the better. Overnight didn't work for me - we have too many nocturnal loo users as it turns out!!

Score card:
Green-ness: Good Green Cleaning! Bi-carb is the poster product of green cleaning!
Frugal-ness: At a $1.67 for 500g - I reckon its a bargain
Time cost: 30 seconds to pop the Bi-carb in and 8 hours to do its thing. 
Skill level: Easy Peasy!
Fun -ness: A sparkling loo is more of a novelty than fun at the moment!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Slowing down - the Slow Living Essentials way. March 2012

I have been following Christine at Slow Living Essentials for a while and in January she set a challenge to record on our blog, monthly, how we have "slowed down" under nine categories - I did this for January and February and really got a lot out of it. This is my March reflection on Slowing Down - the Slow Living Essentials way!

Here's what I did...

NOURISH: Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. I have decided to try baking again. I'm not much of a baker but really want to move away from buying store bought cakes with all those preservatives that make them last for months without growing any mould. The banana loaf I made in the weekend seemed to go down all right and I have an apple, walnut and raisin loaf in the oven right now, with bread ready go in as soon as its out and then some homemade gourmet sausage rolls after that! 

I had to try a piece - with butter that just melted into the slice! Mmmmmm!

PREPARE: Stockpile and preserve. I scored a dehydrator from a friend and gave it a bit of a run. It was an experiment rather than an attempt to stockpile anything but I'm considering having a decent go at making some meat jerky. I'll have a chat to my butcher and see if he will cut the meat for me and if he will (and I know he will) then I'll give it a whirl and blog the results. 

REDUCE: Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. I made some recycled bags out of our chook food bags and a couple of old pillowcases! And figured out a way to use up an old milk bottle, some pesky bread tags as well as a way to keep my compost bucket a bit cleaner!

GREEN: up our lives. Start (or continue!) using homemade products. I have had some success in this area this month! I had a natural product war on the ant invasion and seem to have won!!! I have also been right into the bi-carb and vinegar this month to see what will come clean with it. The loo got a real hard time and it is now sparkling inside and out. I have made some old spray bottles up with tea-tree and/or eucalyptus oil and left them in the bathroom to spray around the shower bath and loo when the idea grabs me. Its much easier to reach under the basin and give the shower a spray than to wander all the way down to the kitchen and get it. I have found the mould and grot greatly reduced in the week or so I have been dong this! I also had a go at making some homemade green skin care products! (Keep an eye out for the post.)

GROW: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? My micro-greens got drowned while we were in NZ for a week :( We are planning to have a clean out of the vege garden over Easter and replanting it for winter. In the meantime I have replaced the spider plants in my hanging baskets with native violets and other flowers since I seem to be able to grow flowers and I love looking at them out the kitchen window when I do the washing up!

CREATE: to fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
A fun month for creations! Wedding horseshoes and garters, my contribution to a 50th birthday banner and towel rack tags so we all know which ones are ours! We had a new lady at our neighbours craft morning which defiantly feeds the soul!

DISCOVER: Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Got to have a look at Rhonda's book - Down to Earth and thoroughly enjoyed that! Ask your library to buy a copy if they don't already have one. I'm also doing a uni unit that gets us to watch some videos on stone age type cultures. They have a huge amount of leisure time as they don't 'need' much. It made me think that's for real.

ENHANCE: community: The rewards for your time are often returned tenfold. I do my regular social basketball with a bunch of people of varying ages and abilities up at the PCYC. I have an aunty in hospital that I still haven't been to visit but have sent postcards so she knows we know where she is! I missed my Blue Light disco canteen gig as I was in NZ this month but I heard it was a great night as usual! I got Leibster-ed which definatly created new blog connections in my wee online community this month!

ENJOY: Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. This one was easy this month! Spending a week in NZ with family and friends with a wedding smack in the middle made it easy to spend quality time with friends and family! Our newly wedded couple have gone to the Gold Coast for part of their honeymoon but we will have them here for the last week, which will be fun. We also said goodbye to our Swiss student with a steak at a local waterfront pub which is a bittersweet experience. But we will be welcoming a Thai student in the next few days.

At the wedding with the mother of the bride. A friend I have known since primary school!
I think about the review from time to time when I do things and look forward to sharing! This is a fabulous idea! Thanks again Christine!
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